Are search engine friendly URLs needed?
Google's ranking algorithms have around 200 signals that give your site its listing position. These algorithms change weekly and include such things as PageRank, number of inbound links, inbound link anchor text, age of domain, etc, etc.
SEF URLs do still have some weight when it comes to the ranking algorithms, but this is greatly reduced from passed years.
Search Engine Friendly URLs vs Human Friendly URLs
The Joomla.org website has a Wiki section for documentation and the page about enabling SEF URLs starts with the term 'Human readable'.
Still far too many people believe that URLs can give them a huge boost in search engines, they think that having URLs with their keywords in them is the holy grail of SEO, NO! - SEF URLs are very important but not for ranking in Google.
Human Friendly URLs - Human Readable URLs
Once upon a time when people search on Google, they would click on the first link in the page. Internet users are becoming more savvy when searching and have learnt not to just click the first link. People searching want to see something in the snippet provided by the search engine that matches their search term.
Yes you can rank number one in the world for a term that does not appear anywhere on your site.
Google highlight exact and simile matches of search terms in their listings, The snippet that makes up your listing in Google comes from your:
- Page Title
- Description/Open Directory Project Listing/Google now takes relevant content from your page and inbound link text
Just because these make up your listing does not mean that they are the most important ranking factors. But this is what searchers see and it's your chance to grab their attention and get them to click on your listing.
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Human Friendly URLs Trusted By Searchers
Evidence shows that searchers trust the URL, as long as it has good structure, is logical and relevant to their search term. Maybe this is to do with the fact that everybody has heard of URLs and understand what they are seeing.
This means that the value of the URL has shifted from SEF to HF - Human Friendy.
An example of this is for the search term 'Joomla Support Services'
I'm not saying that this URL is perfect but it does demonstrate structure of how a URL should be constructed. Dean Marshall Consultancy offer a full range of web design services using Joomla CMS. Our domain name does not include any keyword terms of our business i.e Web Design, Joomla, Consultants/Consultancy, etc.
Because our domain name is keywordless people need to be told what we do, as stated above you have three goes at this in your Google listing, and the URL is considered a trust worthy resource as it genrelly includes your menu structure. This site is targeted at webmasters/site owners who already know what Joomla is and need services, support, help with their current or new build website.
You will notice that two words appear twice in the URL above:
This is to tell the searcher that we offer more than one service, the two occurences of Joomla are intended to show that Dean Marshall Consultancy specialise in Joomla. You don't want your URL to be too long but you do need it to tell any prospective site visitor what you do. Support only occurs once, this is deliberate as we are looking for an exact match for the three word term, in the hope that a searcher will choose based on high ranking and trust that the site they click through to has the information/product they are looking for.
You cannot force trust on people, if they have visitored your site before and had a good experience, they are far more likely to click your listing then somebody elses, if it's an open contest and the searcher has never visited any of the sites listed, you need that element of trust and properly constructrd URLs can give you that edge over the competition.
As searchers become more and more savvy and cautious of what links they click, URLs will become more and more relevant, bu the days of SEF URLs are gone and the dawn of HF URLs is here.